Mel Ramos

American, 1935


Mel Ramos’s provocative, humorous paintings mix superheroes and idealized nude women with the imagery of popular culture—Coca Cola bottles, Chiquita bananas, Martini glasses, movie posters, and the like. 

Born in Sacramento, California, to a first generation Portuguese-Azorean immigrant family, one of his earliest art teachers was Wayne Thiebaud, who he considered his mentor, and who remained his friend. Later, Ramos would go on to be an esteemed art teacher himself.

A prolific artist from his emergence in the 1960's onward, Ramos often based his nudes on the female celebrities of the day, from Marilyn Monroe to Scarlett Johansson. His style references the sensuality and glossy flatness of pin-ups and Playboy spreads and has drawn the ire of feminists and art critics alike. The artists however asserted that his works are “apolitical”.

Though clearly aligned with Pop art in his appropriation of imagery from mass media and consumer products, Ramos said his practice is rooted in Surrealism and its emphasis on “absurd conjunctions”—in his case, a beautiful nude woman emerging from a Snickers wrapper or lounging seductively in a banana split.

His work can be found in the permanent collections of the New York Museum of Modern Art, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and Whitney Museum of American Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Norton Simon Museum, and the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, DC.

According to the artnet Price Database, Ramos’s £1.07 million [$1.69 million] auction record was set at Sotheby’s London in 2012.